A nanopillar array on black titanium prepared by reactive ion etching augments cardiomyogenic commitment of stem cells†
A major impediment in the clinical translation of stem cell therapy has been the inability to efficiently and reproducibly direct differentiation of a large population of stem cells. Thus, we aimed to engineer a substrate for culturing stem cells to efficiently induce cardiomyogenic lineage commitment. In this work, we present a nanopillar array on the surface of titanium that was prepared by mask-less reactive ion etching. Scanning electron and atomic force microscopy revealed that the surface was covered by vertically aligned nanopillars each of ≈1 μm with a diameter of ≈80 nm. The nanopillars supported the attachment and proliferation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). Cardiomyogenic lineage commitment of the stem cells was more enhanced on the nanopillars than on the smooth surface. When co-cultured with neonatal rat cardiomyocytes, the cyclic pattern of calcium transport observed distinctly in cells differentiated on the arrays compared to the cells cultured on the smooth surface was the functional validation of differentiation. The use of small molecule inhibitors revealed that integrins namely, α2β1 and αvβ3, are essential for cardiomyogenesis on the nanostructured surface, which is further mediated by FAK, Erk and Akt cell signaling pathways. This study demonstrates that the nanopillar array efficiently promotes the cardiomyogenic lineage commitment of stem cells via integrin-mediated signaling and can potentially serve as a platform for the ex vivo differentiation of stem cells toward cell therapy in cardiac tissue repair and regeneration.